CUP: Las Vegas Welcomes A New Champion

It’s Brad Keselowski’s week.

NASCAR’s newest Sprint Cup champion will be officially crowned and also will be toasted, paraded, saluted and otherwise honored during four days of activities this week in Las Vegas.

The highlight of the week will be Friday night’s Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet, a black-tie event that honors the top 10 in the series final standings but saves the spotlight for the champion, this year a first-timer in Keselowski.

Champion’s Week will open in one of the nation’s party capitols Tuesday with the first day of the NASCAR Pit Stop Tour. Show cars from numerous teams will be on display at popular spots along the Las Vegas Strip, including the New York, New York hotel/casino and the Fashion Show mall.

On Tuesday afternoon, Motor Racing Network’s NASCAR Live will be broadcast from the Wynn hotel’s sports book. Keselowski is scheduled to be on the show for an hour with host Eli Gold. Start time is 7 p.m. ET.

Activities kick into high gear Wednesday. The featured event will be Fanfest, sponsored by Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Scheduled to be held on Fremont Street in “downtown” Las Vegas at 5 p.m. ET, Fanfest will feature a red-carpet walk by the series’ top 12 drivers, followed by competition in a game-show format, hosted by comedian Carrot Top.

A Wednesday night (9 p.m.) reception at the Wynn will introduce the finalists for the annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, and the winner will be announced.

Thursday’s activities are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. ET with the unveiling of Chevrolet’s SS 2013 Sprint Cup car at the Encore Theatre at the Wynn. The unveiling of the car is not open to the public.

At 2 p.m., the sport’s leading drivers, owners and crew chiefs, along with many others, are scheduled to gather at the Wynn for the annual NASCAR National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Awards luncheon. Among the awards to be presented during the luncheon are Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, the NMPA Most Popular Driver Award and the NMPA Myers Brothers Award.

The NASCAR Victory Lap is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. along Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip). The 12 Chase drivers will parade their cars down the boulevard to a finish at the Planet Hollywood Resort/Casino. Thousands line the boulevard for this unusual parade.

After the Victory Lap, the drivers will assemble inside Planet Hollywood for the 8 p.m. “After The Lap” question-and-answer session with fans.

The Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Friday. The ceremony will be broadcast live on SPEED.

Comedian/actor Howie Mandel is scheduled to host the ceremony. Performing will be Train, Lifehouse, Natasha Bedingfield, Phillip Phillips and entertainers from The Beatles LOVE Las Vegas show.

The top 10 drivers will deliver speeches during the banquet, with Keselowski last on the program. The racing world will be startled if he doesn’t tweet during his appearance.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.